Friday, March 26, 2010

Groping for Purchase in Louisiana and Thoughts about the Jockey Club Data

The Jockey Club has released data it has collected over the past three years. The rate of catastrophic breakdown for racehorses in North America is about 2 for every 1,000 starters. More than double the figure in Europe, Asia and Australia (pretty much the rest of the racing world). Why?
Gate-to-Wire riding?
Year-round glut?
All of these are somewhat unique characteristics to North America. The rate of breakdown did not decrease in training hours either, suggesting race-day drug violations may not be the culprit. Also, the figure for All-Weather is a lot less at 1.44.

So that's the bad news; now for the good. The Jockey Club had the courage to conduct the study and publish its results. And this is a huge improvement that will undoubtedly have very positive effects on equine welfare in the States. We all knew about this problem, but willfully relegated it to the bottom-tier tracks, the lowly claimers ... until Barbaro, George Washington and Eight Belles illuminated a very difficult aspect to the sport.

Now we just have to figure out how many pigs have to die for the sport of football so, as fans, we keep our superiority over those cretins.

The Louisiana Derby

Let's hope it's better than the Risen Star. The San Felipe and Risen Star were the two worst Derby preps to date. Both stolen on the front end. But with a nice injection of pace, the derby looks to have more dimension. Drosselmeyer draws lucky 13,  which doesn't hurt him too much since he's a closer, but I was really unimpressed with his inability to run down Discretely Mine in the Risen Star. The pace set up so poorly for big Dross, but I felt he still had a shot in the stretch and was unable to make a move. In a race like the Risen Star that's exactly what you look for -- someone to rise above circumstances and be able to take races that don't set up to their style. I'm not tossing Dross, but I'm placing him behind Stay Put. I'm also gonna use A Little Warm who Tony Dutrow ships in and stretches out from 7f to 9 --  quite a stretch. A Little Warm is an unknown quantity which could be a better bet than the known mediocrity this field has shown. Maybe mediocrity is a little harsh. I look for Discretely Mine to do what Rule did last week in Florida, but who knows ... the only thing I can say for sure is that there'll be no value with him.

Lanes End
Lots of horses lined up in Florence for that Derby bid, none of them seem to be in optimal Derby form for this time of year. These are the darts the trainers throw at the wall in hopes of securing a Derby spot. Connemara is a very classy colt and should take favortism. I have a hard time opposing him, but will pair him with Kettle River who performed inexplicably poorly in the Sham. Good luck everyone.

Fifty Bucks

Sunday, March 21, 2010


"It's not like he's some obscure Greek God," says Chris as we listen to the caller at Tampa Bay butcher Odysseus's name again. "He's getting closer," I console. Also, no longer obscure and getting closer is Odysseus's Derby dream. Yes, I'm a week back railbird fans, but there isn't much to say about the Florida Derby other than a really nice Winstar horse wasn't able to get the distance that the closing fractions of the Sam F. Davis pressaged a few weeks ago. Too bad, I like Rule. Of course, if you can't win the Derby then the breeders like nothing better than a prodigious miler, and Rule could turn out to be just that. But back to Odysseus.

There's an intensity and an aloofness to this guy. Sort of like Kramer on Seinfeld. He gets a bit washy and doesn't seem to have his timing synched up, but I look back to last year's Tampa Bay Derby when another horse won at the wire -- Musket Man, who has the same connections as the nippee (not the nipper) of this year's TBD. Schoolyard Dreams. I apologize if this is getting convoluted, main point being: it was one of the most enjoyable stops along the Triple Crown Trail last year. Watching Musket Man leave his childish ways behind. Did we see a repeat of that? Will this be the turning point for Odysseus? Next up is the Wood, unless he goes to Arkansas. Either way, it's a big step up.

He's been a lot of fun to watch and I hope he sticks around. He's my Derby horse!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Gotham and Sham Redux

The two fading coasts send up two fields of non-graded winners. How did Florida and Arkansas usurp LA and NYC? Still, both races are interesting and great betting affairs. I'm not going to revise my Sham picks from last week much, though Kettle River might have benefited from the extra week and I've gained a little more respect for Setsuko. I'm still gonna oppose Baffert; if I get bit, I get bit.

Typically I don't forgive horses with excuses, but the Whirlaway was an extremely strange race. Three Day Rush got biffed by Eightyfive as he bored out. Still he ran well and, if you throw in the lost momentum you could argue he ran the best race. So, I'll use him on top of many tickets. Ramon Dominguez jumps off Dickey Du's Yawana Twist, which is cause for concern. Every prep race, you're faced with the decision: Do I stick with proven Mediocrity (Turf  Melody) or go for a horse taking the class test for the first time? I usually choose the latter, but I hate to see Dominguez off the mount. He's been schooling jocks at the Big A -- though Leparoux, Prado, Nakatani and Bravo aren't his typical foes. Yawana has to do a lot today, not only two turns and stakes but also open company are new conditions for him. His pedigree doesn't suggest stamina, but I think he can get this distance. And, speaking of pedigree, Vinery Stables brings Awesome Act to try dirt. He looked good at the Breeders Cup, and if there's a strong pace watch out for this guy who'll swallow em up.

Fifty Bucks
$5 exacta Three Day Rush over Peppi Knows, Awesome Act, Turf Melody ($15)
$20 exacta Three Day Rush over Yawana Twist ($20)
$5 exacta box Three Day Rush, Awesome Act ($10)
$5 exacta Peppi Knows over Three Day Rush ($10)